Monthly Archives: December 2008

Makise Riho, BAPE’s Nigo Get Hitched

Makise Riho, NigoActress Makise Riho (36) announced through her management agency today that she and fashion designer Nigo (37) are getting married today. The couple have been dating since they were introduced by a mutual friend in May 2004. Makise debuted after winning a TV commercial audition in 1989, and she became one of the most famous faces of the early 1990s. Among her most famous TV drama series were “Nijuusai no Yakusoku” and “Ichiban Taisetsuna Hito Wa Dare Desu Ka.” She won a newcomer award for her role in the movie “Tsugumi” (1990) and a best actress award in 2002 for “Turn.” Though she is still continuing her acting career, Makise is currently undergoing orthodontic treatment and has not appeared on screen for some time. But she has been working in narration and fashion design. No doubt the latter field is one where her new husband will have plenty of good advice. Real name Nagao Tomoaki, Nigo is the founder of A Bathing Ape (or BAPE), one of Japan’s leading street fashion brands. In the last couple of years he has also been producing and performing with the Teriyaki Boyz hip hop group. The group have tried to break into the U.S. music scene, even enlisting the support of Kanye West, but they have little to show for it so far.

Earlier Story:

Riho’s Going Ape

The Return of Yada Akiko

Yada AkikoActress Yada Akiko (29) is making her return to work after a couple of years off to get married and have a baby. It was announced yesterday that she is to appear in the Fuji TV drama “Voice – Inochinakimono no Koe,” which airs from January 12 in the “golden” time slot of 9pm Mondays. One of the top young actresses and TV commercial faces of the last decade, things started to change for Yada a few months after she and actor/singer Oshio Manabu (30) appeared together in the spring 2005 TBS drama series “Yume de Aimashou.” The two had first worked together on the Fuji series “Yamato Nadeshiko” in 2000 but the first report of romance came in August 2005. Yada dropped out of sight when they got married in November 2006, and she became a mother just over a year later (they named their son Riamu/Liam, as Oshio is a fan of Brit rockers Oasis). Yada’s last TV role was also on Fuji, when she appeared in the series “Top Caster” three years ago. Oshio has switched between acting and musical careers, and joined Avex Entertainment this spring. He is said to be aiming to launch a career outside Japan, possibly in Hollywood (he lived in Los Angeles for eight years as a child). But nothing major has happened for him in some time so no doubt Yada will be the breadwinner for the time being.

Earlier stories

Oshio, Yada Hitched

Oshio Manabu the Face of Bodymaker

• Tadano Hitoshi is going Golden! The popular late-night drama series “Tokumei Kakaricho – Tadano Hitoshi” is to get a prime time (called “golden” in Japan) slot on TV Asahi, it was announced yesterday. We’ve run a couple of recent articles on the growing profile of the show and its current big screen version, and mentioned that the show is famous for its sex scenes that often feature real porn stars. Well, for a Thursday 9pm time slot, the show will be expected to cut back on the nudity. But star Takahashi Katsunori, who turns 44 today, said they will push the boundaries as far as the censors (and the viewing public) will allow. A few days before the series starts on January 8, there will be a special featuring former Morning Musume member Nakazawa Yuko (35), though there was no mention of how much she will bare.

Earlier stories

Tadano Hitoshi Hitting the Big Screen

• Former sumo yokozuna (grand champion) Hanada Masaru (37) has remarried. He revealed on a weekend variety show that he tied the knot with his 28-year-old bride on December 12. She is not involved in show business. Hanada has four children with his ex-wife Mieko (39), whom he divorced in October 2007. She is said to have learned of the marriage only when reporters quizzed her about it outside her Tokyo home yesterday.

• Singer Gackt kicked off his first concert tour in three years yesterday. His fans tend toward the fanatical so they didn’t seem to mind that the show started two hours late at the Misato City Bunka Kaikan. Gackt said he was a bit nervous after such a long break from performing and had let the rehearsals run overtime. He gave the first public performances of his latest single “Jesus” and the upcoming new track “Ghost,” which is the local theme song for the U.S. drama “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” The tour is his biggest so far but the venues are fairly small, with a total projected audience of about 110,000 for 51 shows in 43 cities nationwide.

Another Link Between Showbiz, Yakuza

Senda MitsuoTalento Senda Mitsuo (61) performed as master of ceremonies for a wedding ceremony in November. Nothing unusual about that, except that the ceremony was for the daughter of a yakuza gang boss, according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Shuukan Shincho.” The magazine quotes Senda as saying, “I had no idea it was connected with an organized crime organization. It was careless of me.” The article said that actress/pin-up girl Hosokawa Fumie (37) and her husband also attended the event. There are likely to be repercussions for Senda – he recently finished filming the NHK drama series “Dandan,” in which he plays a radio DJ, and the series is scheduled to begin from December 24. The public network said that they are looking into the matter and will make a statement later today. In October, NHK banned several top singers from appearing after they were found to have taken part in the birthday celebrations of a top yakuza boss.

Earlier story:

NHK Bans Enka Singers for Partying With Yakuza

Shibasaki Kou, Uverworld Vocalist an Item

Uverworld, Shibasaki KouActress Shibasaki Kou (27) has a new man rocking her world, according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Josei Seven.” The article doesn’t say how or when Shibasaki split up with actor Tsumabuki Satoshi (27) – they had been dating since the spring of 2005 and were thought to be considering marriage. But she and Uverworld vocalist Takuya (28) are said to have moved beyond being friends sometime in the autumn. The couple were spotted out on the town together for three nights running, including a recent visit to see the Christmas illuminations in the trendy Tokyo district of Roppongi. Shibasaki, who also has a musical career, attended Uverworld’s concert at Nippon Budokan on December 5. The rock band debuted with gr8! Recordsin 2005 and have been making bigger waves in the last year or so. Their 12th and most recent single, “Hakanakumo Eikyu no Kanashi,” was their biggest seller so far and the first to reach No.1 on the Oricon chart. It was used as the opening theme for the “Mobile Suit Gundam 00” anime.

• Actor Kase Taishu (38) was all tears and apologies on his first day in court yesterday. He was arrested in October for possession of marijuana and stimulant drugs, which he said he has been using since high school. Appearing at the Tokyo District Court yesterday with his head shaved and wearing a gray suit, he said he has decided to quit show business and wants to return to his family home in Hakodate, Hokkaido. But if prosecutors get their way, he’ll be heading to prison for two and a half years. Kase, real name Kawamoto Nobuhiro, made his debut in 1990 and quickly became known as a “trendy” actor. But the fall came quickly and was followed by a move to Taiwan and a short-lived marriage. His drug use became more serious in 2004.
Earlier story:

Police Find Kase Taishu’s Drug Stash

Hamasaki Ayumi Lands Dragonball Gig

Dragonball PosterJ-pop diva Hamasaki Ayumi (30, profile) has landed a major scoop. She was named yesterday as the artist who will record the theme song for the upcoming Hollywood version of Dragonball. Due for release in Japan on March 13, 2009 (April 8 in the U.S.), the live-action adaptation of the mega-popular manga will be released here as “Dragonball Evolution.” The cast includes Justin Chatwin in the lead role of Goku, James Marsters as his nemesis Lord Piccolo, and Chow Yun-Fat as Master Roshi. It will feature Hamasaki’s original Japanese language song “Rule” as its main theme for all distribution worldwide. Though the local release of major Hollywood productions often uses a theme by a Japanese artist, it’s very rare for a J-pop star to get this level of global exposure. And when it’s in tandem with the kind of blockbuster marketing support that only Hollywood studios can provide, this has to be a major step up in Hamasaki’s already stellar career. Director James Wong is said to be a big fan of Ayu and personally requested that she be involved. She has provided four theme songs for Japanese movies, including “Kizudarake no Otokotachi” (Secret) and “Kaidan” (Fated) in 2007. For her first overseas collaboration, she’s written what’s described as an uptempo rock number. The Dragonball manga series has sold an estimated 350 million copies worldwide.

• Kobuchi Kentaro (31) of the J-pop duo Kobukuro became the proud father of twins yesterday, when his wife had a baby boy and girl. The couple, who met at university, married in 1997 when Kobuchi was still an office worker. Kobukuro are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year.

• Hollywood star Brad Pitt (44) hinted yesterday that he and Angelina Jolie (33) may be visiting Japan early next year. The couple were at the Los Angeles world premiere of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” whose Japan release is scheduled for February 7. If they come for the Japan premiere, it would be their first visit to these shores since November 2005.

Mukaji Suffers For His Art

Tsukaji MugaFuji TV announced yesterday that comedian Tsukaji Muga (37) broke his leg during recent filming of a variety show. He and a group of fellow comedians were filming the popular “All Star Athletic Games” corner for the “Haneru no Tobira” show on December 5. Like many Japanese comedy shows, it features plenty of pratfalls and other physically demanding stunts. Fuji says all possible safety measures had been taken and Tsukaji had attended rehearsals as usual. A full recovery is expected to take two to three months. Tsukaji is one half of the popular duo Drunk Dragon. He has recently been developing a good reputation as an actor, and landed a few major TV and movie roles. In a statement, he apologized to fans and program staff for the “meiwaku” (inconvenience) and promised to make a speedy recovery.

• Japan lost one of its great postwar songwriters last weekend, with the death of Endo Makoto. He died of a heart attack at a Tokyo hospital on Saturday morning. He was 76. The writer of over 5,000 songs, he became chairman of the Japan Composers Association in 2005. Among his most famous hits are Sen Masao’s “Kitaguni no Haru” and Funaki Kazuo’s “Koukou Sannensei.” He was attending a party in mid-October when he experienced chest pains and was hospitalized. He had bypass surgery, an operation he also underwent in Hawaii in 1988.

• Retired comedian Wakai Hayato died of heart failure at his home in Osaka early yesterday morning. He was 64. One half of the manzai duo Wakai Pon-Hayato, which split up in 1985, he had since been a solo comedian performing in theaters in his hometown. His agency, Shochiku geino, said he had won a battle against throat cancer two years ago and seemed in good health last weekend. His wife went to wake him on Monday morning, only to find that he had died in his sleep. Among his proteges are talentos Yamada Hayato (47) and Moriwaki Kenji (41).

• Some wedding news: popular talento Suzuki Sarina (31) got hitched to reggae singer Tela-C, a member of the group Infinity16, on December 6. The couple have been dating for about five years. Suzuki broke the news during her regular appearance on the Fuji TV variety show “Mecha Mecha Iketeru!” Meanwhile, Kato Yoshiyuki (30) of the 6-member acapella group Rag Fair is engaged to be married, it was revealed on Sunday. He was recording in Tokyo in May when he met his future 24-ear-old bride, who was doing a part-time job near the studio. She is said to be starting out as a stage actress.

• Fuji TV’s Takashima Aya (29) has once again been ranked as Japan’s most popular female TV announcer. It’s the fifth time in a row for “Ayapan” to gain the top spot in Oricon’s twice-annual ranking. In fact, she’s been the only winner since it started in January 2006. She will now enter its “Hall of Fame,” opening the way for a new winner next time.

Girl Next Door to Release Debut Album

Girl Next DoorJ-pop newcomers Girl Next Door continue to punch way above their weight. The trio (Suzuki Daisuke/keyboards, Chisa/vocals, Inoue Yuji/guitar) have already landed a spot on the prestigious NHK live song contest “Kohaku Uta Gassen” on New Year’s Eve. That highly coveted invitation came just three months after they debuted, the shortest period in the show’s long history. And it came before they’d even released their first album, details of which were announced yesterday. The eponymous album, which goes on sale December 24, has 14 tracks and each and every one of them has a tie-up with a TV show or product commercial. Avex Entertainment are clearly betting the house on this group and the album is described as the first ever debut release to achieve that kind of marketing muscle. The tracks include: debut single “Guuzen no Kakuritsu,” the opening theme for TBS’s music show “CDTV”; “Jonetsu no Daisho,” the most recent single and main theme for the TV Asahi drama “Giragira”; “Winter Game,” the ending theme for Fuji TV’s “Uchikuru?”; and “Power of Love,” the official song to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Tokyo Tower. The group were one of five artists to be named as Best Newcomer at the annual Record Taisho awards, with the overall winner to be announced on a live TBS show December 30. With the new album and two big TV appearances in the space of a week, it’s going to be a massive end of the year for the group known as GaruNeku.

• Among the Grammy nominees for Best Surround Sound Album is “Sensurround + B-Sides,” produced by Oyamada Keigo, better known as Cornelius (39). The Surround Sound award was first handed out in 2005. The Grammy winners will be announced February 8.

“Julie” Does Marathon Show for Big 60

Sawada Kenji in concertSinger Sawada Kenji held a concert at Tokyo Dome yesterday to celebrate his 60th birthday. The show followed the November 29 concert at Kyocera Dome, Osaka. Yesterday’s performance started at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and continued for six hours and forty minutes, the longest ever solo concert at the dome. Midway through the show Sawada, popularly known by his nickname Julie, broke down in tears saying he was overwhelmed that 32,000 people would take off work or close their businesses to attend a weekday afternoon concert. Repaying their support, he performed a set of 80 songs that covered the span of his long career. During the first part of the show he sang 42 songs, from his time as frontman for 60s band The Tigers, to the hits by 70s rock band PYG, and with many solo hits thrown in too. Among those in the audience were Sawada’s wife, actress Tanaka Yuko (53), Tigers bandmate Kishibe Ittoku (61) and musician Morimoto Taro (60). Sawada’s birthday was actually in June, but in Japan turning 60 is a cause for a special celebration, known as kanreki. He started the show in a white suit and Native American headdress, but according to kanreki tradition, for the second half he wore all red including a red headdress.

• A date has been set for the first court hearing in the copyright fraud case against top music producer Komuro Tetsuya (50, profile). Once one of the wealthiest and most successful people in the Japanese music industry, he is accused of swindling ¥500 million from an investor by offering to sell him the rights to hundreds of songs he had written but which actually belonged to the Avex record label. He will have his first appearance at the Osaka District Court on January 21, exactly two months after he was prosecuted. He was released from the Osaka detention center on ¥30 million bail.

Earlier stories:

Komuro Tetsuya Faces Arrest for Fraud

More Details on Komuro Arrest

• Comedian Ota Hikari (43) of the duo Bakusho Mondai missed his regular slot on the live Fuji TV afternoon variety show “Waratte Iitomo!” yesterday because he was in hospital having a hernia operation. The procedure is his second and was planned four months ago. He is expected to be back in his regular emcee job on the TBS news variety show “Sunday Japon” this weekend.

• Actress Suzuki Honami (42) is making her comeback after ten years away from showbiz. One of the most popular faces of the 1990s, she quit acting when she married comedian Ishibashi Takaaki (47) in 1998 (she was also married to a motor journalist from 1995-97). Her last public appearance was in September 1999, just after she had her first child, for the opening of her final movie, “Ichigensan.” She and Ishibashi have three daughters, the youngest of whom is now in school. Suzuki will appear in the January issue of women’s magazine “Misesu,” and is said to also be planning to return to acting. She is with the same Arrival agency that represents her husband and Kinashi Noritake (46), better known as the duo Tunnels (profile), but she plans to use her maiden name.

Blind Rakugoka Seriously Injured in Collision With Train

Shoufukutei HakkakuBlind rakugoka Shoufukutei Hakkaku (51) was seriously injured at a train station in Osaka late Monday night. He fell against a train that he had just disembarked from as it was pulling out of the station. His leg was caught between the train and the platform and he was dragged for about 15m, causing a brain contusion and breaking both his legs. Shoufukutei was on his way home after a night out on the town in Osaka with a fellow rakugoka. Watching from the train, his friend saw him walk into a pole on the platform as he headed for the exit. He turned and started staggering the other way, which is when he walked into the moving train. The Hankyu Takarazuka line train continued on its way as the driver and conductor didn’t notice the accident. Shofukutei is the only completely blind performer in the rakugo world of traditional comic storytelling.

• At a regular press conference yesterday, Fuji TV formally acknowledged that they received a demand from the management of Oda Yuji (40) for talento Yamamoto Takahiro (33) to stop doing his impersonations of the popular actor. It was revealed in the weekly magazine “Shuukan Gendai” that the demand had gone out to all the TV networks. Fuji director Suzuki Katsuaki said that the network had no intention of making any changes to its scheduling and that they would allow Yamamoto to perform as he saw fit. The comedian has other routines but by far the most popular over the last year have been his over the top impersonations of Oda’s “Kitaaa!” catchphrase from a TV commercial and enthusiastic coverage of major sporting events.

• Southern All Stars frontman Kuwata Keisuke (52) performed a solo charity concert at Yokohama Pacifico yesterday. During the Act Against Aids benefit, he performed a set that lasted more than three hours and featured 60 songs, including hits by such diverse artists as Misora Hibari and Koda Kumi. SAS are currently on an indefinite break from performing.

• One of Japan’s busiest supporting actresses, Fukatsu Eri (35) has landed her first movie starring role in 13 years, it was announced yesterday. She plays the lead role of a manga artist stuck in a slump in “Onnanoko Monogatari,” adapted from the Nishihara Rieko manga of the same name. The movie, which already finished filming in October, is directed by Morioka Toshiyuki and is due for release next autumn.

• Talento Kinoshita Yukina (20) inadvertently revealed yesterday that she split up with her boyfriend earlier this year. She was a guest model in the bridal fashion show by talento turned designer Kanda Uno (33). When asked by Kanda whether she had a “darling,” the always plain spoken Kinoshita blurted out that they had split up during the summer. She will make her debut appearance on this year’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen” as a member of the pop trio Pabo, made up of several talentos famous for their low I.Q.

• Popular voice actor Miyano Mamoru (25) announced on his website yesterday that he recently got married. The voice of Yagami Light in the hit anime series “Death Note,” Miyano added that his new bride was expecting a baby. But he gave no details about her or when they tied the knot.

2008 Award Season Kicks Off

Amami Yuki, Ueno Yukiko, Edo HarumiThe eagerly awaited annual awards season is underway. Yesterday saw the announcement of the Shingo-Ryukogo Taisho, awards given for the new and trendy words and phrases that best represent the last year. Comedienne Edo Harumi (photo right), who was one of the biggest breakthrough names of 2008, was a winner for her “Goo!” catchphrase. The other main prize was awarded to actress Amami Yuki (41, photo left), whose TBS spring drama series launched the word “arafo,” an abbreviation of the show’s title “Around Forty.” She was on hand to accept the award, but Edo was nowhere to be seen and had to phone in her acceptance speech. Speaking to reporters after she arrived several hours late, she said, “I didn’t expect to win so I had work scheduled for this afternoon.” Other winners included softball pitching ace Ueno Yukiko (photo center), whose 413 pitches in three consecutive games helped Japan win the gold at the Beijing Olympics.

• The final nominees and winners of this year’s Record Taisho awards were announced in Tokyo yesterday. Twelve artists were named for the best song, five for the best newcomer, with the overall winners to be announced during a live TBS broadcast on December 30. The award for best vocal performance went to popular Osaka enka singer Nakamura Mitsuko (58), while Amuro Namie (31, profile) took the prize for top album with “Best Fiction.”

Loudness, Higuchi MunetakaHiguchi Munetaka (photo right), leader and drummer of the heavy metal band Loudness, died on November 30 of liver cancer at a hospital in Osaka. He was 49. The cancer was discovered in April and Higuchi underwent chemotherapy and surgery, having half his liver removed in June. Higuchi, with school friend Takasaki Akira (47) on guitar, started the idol band Lazy in 1977. A total switch in musical direction came with the formation of Loudness in 1981, centered around Higuchi’s powerful drum sound. A pioneer of the heavy rock scene in Japan, Loudness were a huge influence on the stars of today, including X Japan and B’z. Their second album, “Lightning Strikes,” entered the U.S. Billboard Chart in 1986 at No.64, the highest entry by a Japanese artist. Higuchi left the band for a while before rejoining in 2000. The band are scheduled to perform at the “Super Peace Festival 2008” in Shibuya on Saturday.

• Singer Ohshima Yuko (20) of the young idol group AKB48 has been hospitalized with acute appendicitis, it as revealed yesterday. She admitted herself to a Tokyo hospital on November 29 and underwent surgery. An actress since she was a child, she has the longest showbiz career of the many members of AKB48, which she joined in 2006. A veteran of dozens of TV dramas and commercials, she still makes regular appearances on TV variety shows. She was booked to do four TV shows on the day she was hospitalized.

• Announcer Takacho Keisuke (24) quit the TV Tokyo network yesterday. A returnee from the U.S., he attended the prestigious Waseda University, where he was also an active lacrosse player. Sources say he had hoped to put his English language skills to good use and work in an international environment. But in comparison to the more numerous female announcers, such opportunities didn’t come his way. He is said to be planning to work for a consulting company.